Cat Lessons: Gratitude

We are fortunate that all three of our cats get along with each other so well. The bromance between the trio is pretty cute – it apparently involves using one another as pillows. They do play with each other frequently, though that is more difficult to photograph, and evidently share their toys. Such gentlemen cats!

What I have noticed about the trio is that they seem so content with one another’s company and apparently grateful for it. (Perhaps I’m overly anthropomorphizing…) Be as it may, being happy and grateful for one’s friendships is a worthwhile lesson to learn!

Do your cats get along? What kind of relationships do they have? Do they share or do they compete with one another? Share in the comments!

Pet Appreciation Week

The first full week in June–Sunday, June 3rd through Saturday, June 9th–is Pet Appreciation Week! Summer is the time for family vacations and fun, so make sure you take the time to acknowledge and truly treasure all the benefits that your pets have brought to your life. My cats bring me joy, laughter, and warm fuzzies, and have taught me about love, family, true friendship, and compassion.

I managed to snap a photo with Charlie looking directly at the camera while Garrus enjoys his buddy’s company.

What do you appreciate most about your pets? What lessons have they taught you? Share in the comments!

Farewell to Boudicca

Shortly before 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon, my beloved Queen Boudicca Mata Hari Sophia passed from this life and found peace. It was dreadfully sad. Boudicca was terminally ill with multiple chronic, incurable, and progressing medical conditions, and she was suffering as a result. I had to to be her advocate and, out of love and duty, I had to act on her behalf and end that pain. The tears flowed and ebbed. Boudicca passed painlessly away, hopefully with the knowledge that her human family loved her fiercely.

I knew this day was coming and began to prepare myself mentally and emotionally weeks beforehand. I had to make a hard choice but in the end it was the right one, and I don’t regret that choice. Her human mother–me, the human she chose all those years ago at the ASPCA–loved her enough to let her go.

Afterward, everything seemed surreal and out of focus. Happysad feelings are difficult to articulate in coherent sentences. I felt a sinking feeling in my chest–sadness and loss. At some point, relief trickled over me. Comfort knowing that Boudicca was in good company with the rest of my family’s pets that have gone over the Rainbow Bridge. Gratitude for the 18 years of loving companionship and joy that she brought to my life.

It still feels mildly surreal to accept that my sweet baby girl no longer lives among us. Her pink beds lie empty, vacant thrones upon which Queen Boudicca lay in languid repose. In the evening, the boys aren’t interested in or know how to enjoy lap time yet. Charlie, for example, would probably enjoy it quite a bit but he’s rather wiggly. The boys certainly like to snuggle with one another but they’re not snugglebugs with humans yet. We’re working on that. I love Charlie and Garrus deeply (every pet in my house always winds up slightly over-loved) but they do not and will not replace Boudicca.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of little things I will miss about her. Without fail, Boudicca greeted me when I came home, yammering and dancing around my feet until I picked her up. She turned into a limp slinky accordion cat when held. Her purr rumbled, punctuated with trills, when she was filled with lazy contentment (or feline entitlement), especially when I kissed her in between the ears. I would sometimes wake up with her camped out on my chest in a smug cat loaf. I miss her quirks, like when she went through a kleptomaniac phase and repeatedly stole my grandmother’s light blue mohair scarf, complete with matching hat and gloves, and absconded with them to her tower. She became an early riser and pawed me awake. Her eyes turned lantern bright Maleficent-esque green, as though she was plotting nefarious deeds and how to take over the world…just as soon as she finished her nap. She sprawled across books and newspapers and refused to budge. She explored new boxes with relish or took her responsibilities seriously when testing a crocheted blanket for softness and nappability. When I spoke on the phone, Boudicca contributed her two cents to the conversation. Queen B was an excellent reading buddy, especially on quiet rainy days.

Rest in peace, Queen B. I love you.

P.S. I am very grateful for all my friends and family that reached out to me and offered me hugs, comfort, and condolences. Your kindness and thoughtfulness is truly touching. Thank you.

Knowing When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

The hardest part about being a responsible pet owner is when your pet passes away or, due to illness or pain, prompts you to make the excruciating decision to put your beloved pet down. I had to make that decision in January 2017 with Nala. Today, I have to make that same choice on behalf of my beloved Boudicca.

But how do you know when it’s time? Here are some things to consider:

  1. Daily joy. Think of five things that your pet loves to do. When your pet stops doing three of those things, the pet’s quality of life has been impacted enough that it’s probably time. My vet, Dr. R, told me about this and reminded me to keep this in mind with regard to Queen B.
  2. Good days vs bad days. Keeping track of your pet’s behavior and noticing if the condition is getting worse. For example, if your pet is experiencing nausea, obvious discomfort or pain, and having trouble eating or eliminating properly for three days out of the week, that’s no way to live. This concept came up in conversations that I had with Dr. R about Boudicca. It is unpleasant to think about but absolutely necessary.
  3. Debilitating pain or arthritis. These conditions can have significant impacts on other areas of life. In Nala’s case, her arthritis severely limited her mobility so she could not easily get to the food or water bowl or litter box. Boudicca had arthritis as well as neuropathy, and the latter not only affected her gait but led to her incontinence.
  4. Difficulty breathing. If your pet has issues breathing, this will leave your pet feeling exhausted, cannot get comfortable, and anxious.
  5. Not eating or drinking. Appetite changes and weight loss are indicators of suffering. In Boudicca’s case, her hyperthyroidism made her metabolism go into overdrive so she was always hungry but she kept losing weight. She dropped from nearly 8 lbs in January to 5.6 lbs in May.
  6. Vomiting and/or diarrhea. This can lead to dehydration and/or significant weight loss. We kept Boudicca’s nausea in check with an anti-nausea/anti-inflammatory, but we noticed that it became less effective over time. Because of her bowel disease, she had loose stool.
  7. Eliminating issues. If your pet find it increasingly difficult to urinate and/or defecate in the appropriate place, that can lead to a rapid decline in quality of life. Incontinence is a serious issue that must be addressed with a veterinarian. This was the case with Boudicca, who toward the end of her life had accidents outside of the Cat Genie every day. She also struggled when she did make it to the Cat Genie.
  8. Difficulty standing. If your pet has issues standing, hobbles when walking, or falls when trying to move around, that pet is suffering.
  9. Difficulty or no longer grooming. This may due to mobility issues, pain, lack of interest, laziness, or simply feeling unwell. We noticed that both Nala and Boudicca stopped grooming themselves as their illnesses progressed. We bathed them as necessary, usually after a mess was involved, and brushed them.
  10. Depression and weakness. A pet in chronic pain or dealing with serious illness may not have the energy, interest, or ability to do the things they want to do or used to do.
  11. Chronic pain. When pain cannot be controlled with medication, then it’s time. It’s not fair to your pet to live the rest of its life in severe pain.
  12. HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale. Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Happiness, Hygiene, Mobility, and More. Dr. Alice Villalobos rates these on a scale of 1-10.

There are many factors to consider. You can reflect on important questions to determine the best course to proceed. Speak with your vet about the procedure and what to expect. Know that grieving a pet is a process, it will hurt, and it will take time. Ultimately, as a responsible pet owner, you must do what is best for your pet because you love them and they love you.

Garrus’ Procedures

Yesterday Garrus was abducted by aliens! Of course I’m kidding but I’m sure he felt like that happened. He went to the vet, where he had an echocardiogram and extensive dental surgery. Good news: he does not have primary heart disease but has a slight enlargement in his left atrium. We will continue monitoring his heart, and if necessary, put him on heart medication.

I caught a snuggle in progress the day before Garrus’ surgery.

In order to treat his severe stomatitis and dental disease, Garrus had 17 teeth removed. Don’t worry–he kept his canines so he can still make his vampy smile. Dr R called to ask to keep him overnight since he was super groggy and a quiet place to recuperate on a heating pad. (Let’s be honest, Charlie would be all up in his business the moment he got home.) I was content to leave my dear Gentleman Cat in quite capable hands, where he could be closely monitored for any swelling and his pain managed by professionals. Since Dr R is amazing and super-helpful, she agreed to give him extra love on my behalf. (It’s hard to resist petting him since his fur is so plushy. The techs remarked that his fur is as soft as a rabbit’s, so naturally his new nickname is Bunny Cat.)

We picked him up this morning. He was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, even in the carrier, but apparently forgave us for taking him to the vet. When we let him out of the carrier, Charlie rejoiced and trotted merrily over to greet him, then proceeded to escort Garrus as he toured the house to ensure everything was right where he left it. We noticed that Garrus moved with an extra jaunty bounce in his step and–surprise, surprise!–he started talking like a squeaky chimpanzee and asking for food less than five minutes after he got home! He hasn’t had any issues eating so far.

“Hi Mom and Dad! I’m happy to be home! May I have scritches please?”

Dr R said that, while his mouth heals, he needs to eat only wet food (no problem there) and after his sutures heal, we can transition him to kibble again, if he’ll take it, though he may prefer the texture of wet food. Since he lost weight over the last couple of months and remains underweight, Dr R recommended that we increase his caloric intake to two cans of wet food a day. Another option would be to give him kitten wet food. I expect we’ll have a very happy boy.

“Om nom nom” ~Garrus (in the most polite fashion, of course)

Animal Care and Control Appreciation

Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week occurs every year during the second full week in April. This effort was created by the National Animal Care and Control Association to recognize and promote professionalism in the field of animal care and control. Agencies and individuals that provide these valuable community services should be commended for all their hard work.

When I see shelter employees out and about, whether I see them at the vet’s office, shelter, adoption event, library, or somewhere in town, I usually try to say hi and express my gratitude for all that they do.

What can you do today on behalf of your animal care and control agencies? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Express your thanks.
  2. Recognize and celebrate their accomplishments and, if warranted, nominate individuals and shelters for awards.
  3. Become involved in a Friends of the Animal Shelter or rescue organization.
  4. Donate.
  5. Volunteer.
  6. Foster.
  7. Adopt.
  8. Spread the word about the wonderful services your shelter and animal control agencies provide to your community.
  9. Raise awareness about the importance of and educate others how to be responsible pet owners.

Photo credits courtesy of Pexels